Ask Westchester, September 2011: All About the Obelisk on I-95 Northbound; The Origin Behind the Street, "Gilda Radner Way in White Plains; and What Happened to the Westchester County Fair at the Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, NY

A Gilda Radner street in White Plains? And where’s the Westchester County Fair?



Q: Northbound on I-95, just before Exit 19 to Playland Parkway, hidden amongst some tall trees, is a very large, very mysterious, obelisk. It looks like it was part of the cemetery located on the southbound side of I-95, maybe before the highway was built. In any case, it is difficult to access the area where the obelisk is located because it is fenced in by the highway on one side and the Metro-North railroad tracks on another side. Any idea what this obelisk is?
 —Rick Yarmy, New Rochelle

A: The obelisk (a “tapering, four-sided shaft of stone,” for those of you living in Obel-escence) to which you refer is part of The Osborn Cemetery. According to Jane Fox, director of marketing for The Osborn, the pillar is “fifty feet tall and is inscribed, ‘In loving memory of the Founder and Beneficiaries of the Miriam Osborn Memorial Home.’ At the time the obelisk was erected, it was the second tallest cemetery monument in the country.” The structure stands surrounded by many past residents of the home and atop the grave of Helen Adams, who helped establish the home for “aged gentlewomen,” which opened in 1908.

Q: Hey, do you know that there is a Gilda Radner Way in Westchester? Even though, as I understand it, she never lived here or ever set foot here. Why? And do any other celebs who have never called Westchester home have streets or whatever named after them?
—Heather Moscow, Ardsley

A: Hold on—we’ll get our atlas. Wait…what’s an atlas? Is it that thing that is like Mapquest, but slower? While perusing her Facebook page, we, too, actually noticed that Radner, the late Saturday Night Live veteran famous for her roles as Roseanne Roseannadanna and the elderly Emily Litella (who delighted in calling Jane Curtin the “B word” on “Weekend Update”), had a few streets named after her. One is in Toronto and one is in Manhattan (part of West Houston Street). As for Gilda Radner Way, White Plains… Chester Avenue was renamed in June of 2006 in honor of the fifth anniversary of the clubhouse inhabited by Gilda’s Club Westchester, a support group for people with cancer and their loved ones, which is located on Maple Avenue near where Chester Avenue intersects. As for other street names christened after famous people, there’s Washington Street in Port Chester, Hamilton Avenue in White Plains, Franklin Road in Scarsdale… all celebs in our book.

photo courtesy of Library of Congress

The Westchester County Fair booth of Wild Rose and Rattlesnake Joe

Q: Whatever happened to the Westchester County Fair?
—Robert Tuck, Yonkers

A:Ah yes, the amusement park that galloped into Yonkers Raceway annually and advertised itself as “rides and attraction; non-stop action” (guess not) dates back in varying forms to before the turn of the century—the last century, like pre-1900—and drew more than 500,000 people in its final year. But the show crapped out in 2003 so the racetrack could focus on more important things, like putting in slots and making up words (“racino,” tragically is now in Merriam-Webster). Will it be back? The short answer is that, while it was quite popular, and while “all of us here enjoyed it,” says Raceway Publicity Director Frank Drucker, it just became too much to put in one venue and—sigh—there are no plans to return it to Westchester.

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